Letter to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo By Yemi Adebowale
I hope this letter meets you in good health. May the good Lord continue to give you good health and long life to witness the Nigeria of your dream. I wasn’t too sure if I would be allowed into your fortress in Ota; this is why I have chosen this medium to talk to you. Sir, I have been following your remarks about the Jonathan administration for a couple of weeks now, particularly your criticism of President Goodluck Jonathan’s anti-corruption record. Much as I agree that Jonathan has not been that impressive in governance and anti-corruption, I feel you should be very cautious and diplomatic about the way you go about reprimanding him. This is because you are guilty of these same infractions. In your eight years as President, you also failed in virtually all those sectors you said Jonathan had performed below average. Sir, in case you have forgotten, I will be very specific for you to understand the basis of my conviction.
When you assumed office in 1999, most Nigerians were convinced that you would wage a head-on fight against corruption. You even made it very clear while campaigning for the presidency that you would tackle the evil with all your strength. I can remember very well that you said one of your priorities in office would be the battle against corruption. “My mission is to stamp out corruption. Whoever is found corrupt will not get away.” That was what you told Newsweek, an international newsmagazine in January 1999. This promise, no doubt, was one of the factors that influenced your choice by Nigerians in 1999. On assumption, the ICPC and EFCC were established. By these actions, most Nigerians thought the war on corruption was in full swing. But it was not to be.
Just about seven months into your tenure, the then Minister of Defence, Lt. Gen. T.Y Danjuma confirmed a N421 million scam involving the then permanent secretary in the ministry, Dr. Julius Makanjuola and four other directors, describing it as “an embarrassment to the ministry.” Makanjuola, who is your cousin and four other directors in the ministry were arrested and taken to the force headquarters Abuja in respect of payments made to certain individuals as compensation on land allegedly acquired by the ministry. Many thought your anti-corruption agencies would move swiftly against the accused, considering your statement that no one would be spared. It did not happen. It took pressure from the media and civil society groups before your cousin was eventually arraigned in court. The case dragged on unnecessarily, until July 2002 when the Justice Minister filed a Nolli prosequi (no further prosecution) just when the Abuja High Court was billed to give judgement.
The then Director of Public Prosecution, Mrs. Stella Omiyi explained that the Attorney General of the Federation was empowered by Section 17 (1) of the 1999 constitution to file such an application at any point in a case. Many were surprised at the sudden withdrawal of the case, even when the then Minister of State for Justice, Alhaji Musa Abdullahi Elaho, argued that there was enough facts and evidence to get the accused into jail if the prosecution is pursued. While that happened, you pretended that you did not know what was going on.
Following public outcry, you ordered the re-arrest of Makanjuola and the four others for retrial. But that was the last Nigerians heard of the case. Today, your cousin is a free man, strongly believed to be somewhere in Europe, enjoying his loot. Obviously, your crusade against corruption did not affect your relations. Some of them are believed to have helped themselves to juicy contracts during the 2004 All African Games (COJA 2004). Most of the contracts were said to have been inflated. In the spirit of your anti-corruption war, many expected an inquiry. But you kept quiet. Sir, we applauded you for the arrest and sack of a serving minister over the $214 million National identity card scam, but you suddenly turned a blind eye to the COJA fraud. You closed your eyes to obvious corruption when it came to satisfying your family members and cronies.
Again, when the EFCC, apparently under your influence, moved against former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieseigha, Nigerians widely applauded it. Alamieseigha’s support of Atiku Abubakar’s presidential ambition and subsequent allegations of victimisation aside, it was obvious that the former governor had soiled his hands with public funds. But then, several other governors believed to be corrupt, but close to you were never touched by the EFCC. They were allegedly spared, obviously because of their loyalty to you. They are among key figures believed to have funded your botched third term project.
You have also been talking about our legislators being corrupt. Sir, you were allegedly involved in offering bribes to legislators, between 1999 and 2007, contrary to your anti-corruption war. Curiously, there was never an inquiry, thereby giving credence to the allegations. The most dramatic was the alleged bribe offered legislators to back your third term project. Some senators were alleged to have collected N50 million each. Then, Hon. Uche Onyeagucha, who was a member of the House of Representatives, in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation alleged that he was offered a plot of land in Abuja to back the third term bill. “Somebody highly placed in government asked me to sign an endorsement of the third term project and that I would be adequately compensated,” Onyeagucha told the BBC then. Many thought that in the spirit of your anti-corruption, an inquiry would be instituted. Perhaps, this should be followed with the arrest of Onyeagucha, so as to unmask the highly placed government official distributing the bribe. It never happened.
Again, when Ghali Na’abba was the Speaker of the House, some members were also said to have been allegedly bribed by the presidency to impeach him. A member displayed his share of the money on the floor of the House. A huge amount of money, said to have been provided by the presidency, was also believed to have changed hands during the election of late Evans Enwerem as Senate President in 1999. You allegedly supplied the money used to stop late Chuba Okadigbo from the senate presidency in 2003? If you were not involved, how come these were never investigated?
Our great statesman, sometime in 2003, you declared in Ogun State that you were ashamed of federal roads. During one of your road trips, you kept running into potholes, which left you dejected. Even the road to your farm in Ota was pothole-ridden. That was after Tony Anenih, the then Minister of Works and Housing had expended about N350 billion on federal roads. That was also the era when many state governments started working on federal roads because the federal government was not performing. Nigerians were expecting the EFCC to query Anenih. But it was not to be. Anenih was quietly eased out, and his alleged atrocities buried. Many were not surprised. Anenih was the ‘Mr. fix it’ behind your 1999 and 2003 presidential election successes.
This was also the case with former military President, Ibrahim Babangida, who helped you during the 1999 election. You snubbed all calls for a probe of the Babangida regime. Your response was always that you have no evidence to show that Babangida was corrupt and that those with evidence should come up with it. Besides, when Nuhu Ribadu, former EFCC boss told the whole world that he had enough evidence to pick Babangida, he was told to shut up.
On assumption of office in 1999, you pledged to uphold justice and equity. One would have expected the case of civil servants occupying 1004 Flats and Eric Moore Towers, both in Lagos, to get a fair and just treatment. With your monitisation policy, the civil servants living there were faced with ejection. They thought that as occupants, they should get the right of first option to buy their official quarters. They mobilised and placed their case before you. But the civil servants were disappointed and humiliated. The flats were sold and the civil servants forcibly evicted in December 2005. About 400 soldiers and 300 riot policemen were recruited to carry out the eviction of unarmed civilians. Many of them were left to sleep in the open with their families for days, while your humble self who pledged to uphold equity and justice turned a blind eye.
Sir, when Anambra State went up in flames in 2003, you were nowhere to be found. You took side with Chris Uba, the estranged godfather of former governor Chris Ngige, who made the state ungovernable because Ngige refused unlimited access to the state treasury. At a point, he even abducted Ngige, after you had allegedly withdrawn his security aides. The state went up in flames and you looked the other way. Rather, you allegedly worked behind the scene for the ouster of Ngige. You had a responsibility to the people of Anambra State, but you failed to perform.
You also talked about Jonathan’s failure in the area of electricity generation. We all know that during your eight years as President, we were also perpetually in darkness. This was after you spent over $16 billion on improving the sector, without any result.
I have elaborated on all these points to show that the anti-corruption stance of your administration was also a sham. Our refineries were also epileptic during your tenure. So, how can kettle be calling pot black?
Dear sir, it is not just about Jonathan but the office of the President of Nigeria. I join millions of Nigerians in pleading with you not to desecrate the office; a position you occupied for eight years.
Rabiu Kwankwaso and The Presidential Race
One aspirant I find amusing in APC’s list of Presidential aspirants is Governor Rabiu Kwakwanso of Kano State. He suddenly thinks he is a national figure. This local politician must be told that the Presidency of Nigeria is beyond him, at least for now. Kwakwanso is not there yet. He even lacks any tangible record in Kano to warrant his dream of becoming the President of this nation. Just few days back, he was alleged to have opposed the decision of the APC to host its National Convention. Just imagine a man dreaming of the Presidency expressing reservations about coming to Lagos. There is no law that says the National Convention of a party can only hold in Abuja. I am happy that the party ignored him. Those close to him should advise him to honourable withdraw from the race. He is not known beyond Kano. I learnt that his co-APC governors have told him this. Let me add that he is not in the class of Mohammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar.
The Problem with Muiz Banire
Remember Muiz Banire? He was commissioner in Lagos State for 12 years under Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and partly under Babatunde Fashola. At a point, some of us were calling him ‘professional commissioner.’ I am not sure anybody served as commissioner for this long in Lagos State. Banire is now the national legal Adviser of the APC. For some weeks now, he has been criticizing his party in Lagos “for lack of internal democracy and imposition of candidates.” He is also opposed to the candidature of Akinwunmi Ambode. In one of such interviews he granted, Banire was reported to have said that the APC could lose Lagos because the party’s leadership had decided to impose a candidate. He has suddenly realized that “there is a tendency of imposition on the people” and that “the level of frustration is so much within the system.” Banire benefitted from this imposition for 12 years in Lagos. While it lasted, he did not realize the need for internal democracy in the party. Now that he has lost out of power, he is now singing a new tune. Our politicians are just the same. Banire clearly lacks the moral right for this campaign against the Lagos APC.
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